Tuesday, August 16, 2016

90-in-90 Bengals Roster Breakdown: Rex Burkhead ready for bigger role

Rex Burkhead came to the Bengals as a running back out of Nebraska, but receiver may be where he makes his biggest impact in 2016.

By Jason Marcum

August 15, 2016

It's rare you see an NFL player make a position switch in the NFL and go on to last in the league playing in a new role.

Running back may be his position, but wide receiver is where Rex Burkhead has slowly worked to find a role in the Bengals offense. A former sixth-round pick out of Nebraska via the 2013 NFL Draft, Burkhead was the second back Cincinnati drafted that year after the team grabbed North Carolina's Giovani Bernard in the second round.

Like Bernard, Burkhead is a versatile runner who does damage between and outside the tackles, as well as the passing game. But with the Bengals being set in the backfield with Bernard and Jeremy Hill, Burkhead would appear in just 10 games over his first two seasons, most of which coming as a special teams guy.

Burkhead finished 2014 with just seven grabs for 79 yards and nine rushes for 27 yards and one score. After the season, the Bengals decided to work Burkhead more at wide receiver during OTAs and training camp practices, even with the likes of A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu getting the bulk of the snaps in 2015.

Burkhead went on to get more playing time at receiver last season. Though he caught just 10 passes on 15 targets for 94 yards and one score, he made several impressive grabs that showed just how good a pass-catcher he was becoming.

With Bernard and Jeremy Hill ahead of him at running back, he’s simply not going to get chances there. So though Burkhead is still listed as a running back, receiver is where his chance to make a big impact will come in 2016.

Player Info
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 210 lbs
Age: 26
College: Nebraska
Hometown: Plano, TX
Experience: 4th-Year Player

2016 Stock

Burkhead's move to playing receiver may have been a well-calculated decision by the Bengals with how this offseason played out. With both Sanu and Jones leaving, Burkhead could jump from being way down on the pecking order to suddenly being the fourth or fifth option in this passing game.

Had Burkhead been listed as a receiver in 2015, he would have been the fourth receiver while catching more passes than Brandon Tate (2), Mario Alford (1) and Greg Little (0) combined. There's no question Burkhead's stock is on the rise entering the 2016 season.

Roster Chances

Between Burkhead's work on special teams and now as a pass-catcher, he's a great fit for this team and should be in Cincinnati for several more years. He's a lock to make the roster this year with no real competition for the third and fourth running back spots on the roster, not to mention very little experience at receiver in this offense behind Green.

The only real question is do the Bengals find a way to extend Burkhead this year or next offseason when he becomes a free agent in March 2017, but that's a discussion for another day.

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